Monday, March 21, 2016

The Loneliness of the Small Business Owner

By Pascal Dennis

A colleague of mine is launching a small business - a comic book, craft & memorabilia store in Toronto's West end.

John is a splendid artist and draftsman, as well as, a gifted renovator of houses.

But he wants to do something a little different.


Over a drink the other day John described some of the obstacles he faces:

  • Taxation (& double taxation) - on his lease, insurance, inventory, renovations etc.
  • Municipal, provincial and federal business taxes - Toronto's business tax is among the highest in North America
  • Multiple building permits - long delayed because the Permit Office lost the first set of drawings
  • Multiple licenses - which face similar hassles & delays

It'll take John at least 6 months & a ton of investment just to open his doors.

Are there any lessons here?

A cynic might say, "Never start a business. Instead, get a job in the Permit Office. It's indoors & no heavy lifting."

Libertarians might say, "The power to tax is the power to destroy. We have starved government of money and power."

Lean thinkers might say, "Government has to reduce the waste in the small business launch process."

I'm with the Lean thinkers. If we agree that small business is the engine of growth, we have to reduce the hassles people like John face.

(According to BusinessWeek, business owners of all stripes cite RED TAPE is their single biggest hassle.)

How might we reduce the waste & hassle John has experienced?

A 'provision' map would be a good place to start. A provision map is essentially, a value stream map from the customer's point of view.

(See Chapter 12 of The Remedy for more.)

Our map would

  • Define the steps in the small business launch process & related process data (e.g. total lead time, quality, value added time etc.)
  • Illuminate the information flow, and
  • Identify hassles & possible countermeasures

To take such a step, our various governments have to accept that their job is to help, by reducing hassle.

Mr. Obama, Mr. Trudeau, are you listening?

Best,

Pascal

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